Vandy favored on road at Ole Miss

Published 3:59 pm Thursday, October 5, 2006

Two consecutive wins over non-conference foes have the Vanderbilt Commodores feeling better about their season after an 0-3 start.

“There’s nothing like winning. It makes everything a lot easier to go through the next week — class for (the players) and work for us,” coach Bobby Johnson said Monday.

His Commodores defeated Division I-AA Tennessee State and a winless Temple team, I-A’s current losingest team, each by 29 points.

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But now comes the heart of the upcoming Southeastern Conference schedule and tougher challenges.

“It’s back to the SEC and I think our guys are anxious to get back into conference play,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to play better than we have the last couple of weeks, but I think we’ll have an opportunity this week to get ready in practice.”

Easing the SEC road is the next trip to Mississippi (1-4, 0-2) on Saturday, a game in which the Commodores are a rare road favorite.

The Commodores used the last two games to get their running game untracked, averaging 229 yards on the ground in that time. Against Temple, Vanderbilt gained 9 yards per rush against an offensive line that opened huge holes.

But Ole Miss also found ground success last weekend. BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained 135 yards against a Georgia defense that’s usually stingy against the run.

“I hope we can play the run against Miss as well as we did last year. They’re a better running team this year. Their running backs are better, and their offensive line is better,” said Johnson

The emerging rushing success is one of several similarities between the teams.

Both are breaking in athletic, first-year starters at quarterback who have struggled in the passing game. Vanderbilt’s Chris Nickson hit on 9-of-20 throws against Temple for 162 yards, while Brent Schaeffer’s struggles have nearly cost him a job to walk-on Seth Adams with the Rebels.

Still, the Commodores are wary of Schaeffer’s abilities.

“I just watched a little film, but he’s pretty fast,” said Vanderbilt defensive tackle Theo Horrocks, who forced two fumbles and collected six tackles last week.

“He’s really elusive and throws the ball pretty well, so we’ve got to be able to contain him and keep him in the pocket, and hopefully not let him get out and break any long runs. We haven’t played anybody like him yet. He’s a pretty good quarterback.”

The Rebels look to avenge last year’s 31-23 loss in Nashville in a series that traditionally features close games.

“Since I’ve been here (the games have been close), and very exciting, down there and here,” said Johnson.

The Rebels lead the all-time series 45-33-2, and have won 11 of the last 13 meetings since 1992. Ole Miss has won 21 of 24 games in Oxford.